Every morning after breakfast, Sheryl Crow
and her 16-month-old son Wyatt hop on the John Deere four-wheeler behind their Tennessee farmhouse and head for the barn. "We get in the Gator and go down to pet the horses," says Crow. "Wyatt sits on my lap; he wants to drive." Today they stop to watch the new 4-week-old filly try out her wobbly legs while her mother munches the tall grass. "I'm so happy I moved here," says Crow of the 154-acre farm she and Wyatt share with 16 horses and 2 blonde Labradors, Flossy and Rex. "Out every window, you look out over rolling pastures. My little boy is growing up with a great life. I feel so peaceful here."
Only two years ago, Crow's life was in a very different place. She'd been living in Los Angeles for over 20 years when she learned she had breast cancer. "It sort of brought my life to a screeching halt," says the Grammy winner, 46, who is cancer-free after a lumpectomy in 2006, followed by seven weeks of radiation. "It really made me consider how I wanted the rest of my life to look." After adopting Wyatt shortly after his birth in April 2007, she decided to settle down outside Nashville, near her sister Kathy and three hours from her parents in her native Missouri. "I wanted to be near my roots," says Crow. "I grew up in a rural area, and as a single parent, having my family close is a blessing and a great source of encouragement. Wyatt will grow up with a really close-knit family, just like I did."
He already has Mom's taste for travel: Wyatt was 4 months old when he first went on tour with her, and he's on the road again for her Detours
album concert trek, now heading to Canada. "He's game for anything," says Crow. "BRACKET "My band and I"] laugh because rock and roll looks so different now. On the bus there's washers, dryers, a crib and bottles of milk." Even with all the toys on the bus, Wyatt prefers to chill outside. "We have a 'white-trash backyard,'" jokes Crow. "We pop out the side of the tour bus and set up our lawn chairs, the baby pool and the iPod speakers. It's totally a tailgate."
It's not just about the portable parties for Wyatt, who's starting to understand that Mom is a rock star. "He's putting it all together," says Crow, who's nurturing his budding musical talent. "Whenever I play a guitar, he wants to strum. He matches tone already. And I can tell he's got really good rhythm because he claps along." She'd be thrilled to share the spotlight. "Music has brought me so much joy," says Crow, who wrote "Lullaby for Wyatt" for her son. "As long as he's doing what he loves, I approve of it."
Wyatt's presence also prompted Crow to transform what was once an "ostentatious southern mansion" of modern brick and stone into a cozier, kid-friendly space. She repainted rooms in neutral shades, put in dark-wood floors and added eclectic touches: black-and-white photos of horses and a newborn Wyatt; vintage doll heads; oversize animal anatomy posters; an early 1900s angel lithograph above Wyatt's crib. In her barn there's even a brass-and-wood saloon bar she found on Craigslist, flanked by two Wild West death masks. Explains Crow, whose vintage-inspired Bootheel Trading Co. clothing line hit Dillard's stores in August: "I've always loved antiques and eccentric conversation pieces."
Now comfortably settled into her home, Crow is focused on little Wyatt and her Nashville circle of mom friends that includes country singers Faith Hill
and Sara Evans. "I call her last minute to see if she's up for dinner or coffee, and she's always ready to hang," says Evans, who's known Crow for three years. "We get our kids together and just talk as girlfriends. That's really the attitude of Nashville, being available for your friends."
She's also keeping her once-high-profile love life (exes include Lance Armstrong and Owen Wilson
) much lower key. "I'm dating a lot, and that's fun," says Crow. "It's different now because you have to consider not only is that person for you, but is he for your son?" Still, she's open to finding a lifelong companion. "I love the idea of a person that is your ally and equal, who is for you and with you," she says. "I'm not hell-bent on getting married, though I'd never be opposed to it."
Either way, her family has room to grow. "Wyatt loves other kids, so he'd benefit from siblings," says Crow. "He's such a little rabble-rouser, he may need a partner in crime." For now, she's happy to oversee her farm's haymaking and organic garden. "I have a really nice, quiet, private life," she says. "My kid can grow up with a pretty normal upbringing. He's enhanced my life one hundred-fold. I'm in a great place."
Video bonus: See Sheryl's favorite place at home on her ranch at people.com/sheryl_video